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Module QXL-4479:
MArts Dissertation

Module Facts

Run by School of Languages, Literatures, Linguistics and Media

60 Credits or 30 ECTS Credits

Organiser: Dr Alan Wallington

Overall aims and purpose

The 20,000 word dissertation allows a student to identify a research question, and develop a significant piece of individual research to an advanced level, in order to address the question. Each student is assigned a supervisor, a member of staff who has research interests most closely connected to that topic. The supervisor will liaise with the student to enhance their ability to focus the scope, methodology and content of the dissertation, and give advice throughout the duration of this research. The dissertation will be a substantial piece of written work, enabling students to develop an independent research project.

• Allow students to complete a major piece of independent learning and research in extended form.
• Reinforces key skills of research, critical analysis and academic writing.
• Requires students to formulate a practical research project of their own; identify and utilise a relevant body of evidence; and produce a sustained argument in written form.

Course content

Topics vary depending on individual students choices and degree programme. They relate to a wide array of issues in linguistics but must be relevant to the degree programme that the student is registered on. Topics will include, but not be confined to, research in Cognitive Linguistics, Bilingualism, Language Acquisition, Language Development, and Teaching English as a Foreign Language. Most topics will involve the collection and analyse of data, but the possibility of utilising exiting data or doing an extended literature review is not precluded if relevant to the topic and agreed with the supervisor. The School makes every effort to supervise the topic of the students' choice, however, on the rare occasions that the School does not have the capacity to supervise a topic, students will be advised to choose a new topic.

The only summative assessment for the module is the dissertation itself, however, variou tasks and exercises are included in the module to aid students in developing their skills to masters level before writing up the dissertation.

Only students wishing to collect data involving children or vulnerable adults will need a DBS check (see below).

Assessment Criteria


The student has revealed a thorough understanding of the area they have chosen to research, both in terms of content and theory - Data and/or review of literature must be evaluated critically in a logical manner; is able to apply concepts clearly and accurately; display evidence of critical thought; clear, logical argument; and display communicative competence, free from irrelevant material and errors of spelling and punctuation.
The research must have an originality of exposition and understanding; the author’s own thinking should be readily apparent.
The research must show a clear line structure in which each successive stage is explicitly linked and the reader is explicitly told why these parts are relevant to the study.
The research must show clear evidence of extensive reading of primary sources.
Students will have achieved a thorough/excellent understanding and/or knowledge in all LOs.


C (50%):
The student can demonstrate a minimum level of understanding of the area they have chosen to research; and has achieved the minimum acceptable standard of understanding and/or knowledge in all the LOs.
The answer must show evidence of some background study of sources.
The answer must be relevant to the research topic chosen.


Data and/or review of literature must be collected, organized, and analysed with care, and be free from misunderstanding and errors of content, and is free from irrelevant material and an appreciation must be shown of some of the problems involved with collecting data and/or preparing a review of literature. The answer must show a better-than-average standard of knowledge and understanding.
The answer must show evidence of background of primary sources.
Assertions must be supported by reference to a theory and/or empirical research.
The answer must show evidence of analytical thinking. The answer must have a coherent structure that is adhered to in the most part; relationships between successive parts must be generally easy to follow.
Students will have achieved an above average understanding and/or knowledge in all LOs.

Learning outcomes

  1. Students will be able to engage in a sustained piece of individual, academic research on a chosen topic to an advanced standard.

  2. Students will be able to evidence a sophisticated understanding of ethical constraints on research collection and reports.

  3. Students will be able to evidence critical reading to an advanced standard that reflects on a number of pieces of written research in an appropriate and thorough manner.

  4. Students will be able to formulate a sophisticated practical research project of significant scope of their own.

  5. Students will be able to identify and utilise a relevant body of evidence to an advanced standard.

  6. Students will be able to produce a sustained and sophisticated argument in extended written form.

  7. Students will be able to evidence a sophisticated consideration of varying methodological approaches and to adopt the necessary approaches suitable to the topic being researched

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Pro-forma Dissertation Proposal 0
Dissertation (20,000 words) 100
Exercise 1 - Article Critique 0
Exercise 2 - Talk Critique 0
Exercise 3 - Dissertation Critique 0

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Private study

Students will complete 3 formative exercises designed to enhance their critical skills, and awareness of the depth and length required for a masters level research project (and receive feedback on them from their supervisor before writing the dissertation).


Students will meet with the module convenor after submitting potential research questions for advice on selecting one and turning it into a proposal.


A one hour seminar in week 1 to outline the organisation of the dissertation module and get students started.


Students will be allocated a dissertation supervisor, who will provide eight 30 minute one-to-one supervisory meetings. Where possible, these will be face-to-face, but may occasionally be conducted by online means. In the first meeting, a schedule of future meetings will be set, as well as a plan for undertaking and completing the research project.
The supervisor will provide support on an individual basis to help students become properly self-critical and to support their growing autonomy as researchers. Supervisors will be allocated on a basis of relevant expertise but students will be responsible for the extent to which their work covers appropriate territory. Supervisors will serve to challenge assumptions and extend the limits of students' thinking, though they will also act as a source of research expertise and procedural guidance. Supervisors will also give comment on one draft of the dissertation, either in full or as parts/chapters are completed.

Individual Project

Students will be engaged in private research (under the direction of their supervisor) and writing up this up to form their dissertation.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • Research skills - students will be able to undertake advanced independent research, involving formulating a research question, identifying and deploying appropriate linguistic methodology (theoretical or empirical), data collection techniques (experimental or field-based), as well as the selection and application of appropriate theoretical frameworks in order to adequately analyse and interpret data.
  • Writing & scholarly conventions - students will be able to present data, argumentation, findings and references in written form in keeping with the conventions current in language science and English language studies to an advanced standard.
  • Analysis & interpretation skills - students will be able to analyse and interpret data accurately and to draw appropriate conclusions based on the application of appropriate analytic and theoretical frameworks available in linguistics and English language studies.
  • Evaluation & reflection - students will be able to critically evaluate to an advanced standard a particular position, viewpoint or argument in relation to a specific area of investigation. They will be able to reflect on the efficacy of a particular approach, practice or performance, and moderate these as a consequence in order to achieve specific goals.
  • Independent investigation - students will develop the ability to plan, design and execute a highly original and significant piece of research or inquiry, either independently or as a member of a team in order to discover a specific solution to an outstanding issue or question through searching out and synthesising written, visual and oral information. Students will also develop skills of independent investigation, including interacting with peers and participants/informants.
  • Effective communication - students will develop the ability to communicate effectively, appropriately and confidently, in a range of contexts, to different audience types, and making use of a range of supporting materials
  • Awareness of and appreciation for linguistic and cultural differences - students will develop an awareness of and an appreciation for the range and nature of linguistic and cultural diversity.
  • Proficiency in the use of English in reading, writing, speaking and/or listening - students will demonstrate proficiency in their ability to use and understand English in a range of different contexts and via different media.
  • Knowledge of EFL (English as a Foreign Language) theory and practice - students will demonstrate familiarity with core terms, issues, principles, aspects and best practices related to the teaching of English as a foreign language.
  • Understanding of the nature of bi/multilingualism - students will demonstrate familiarity with phenomena and findings relating to the nature of bilingual and multilingual individuals and communities.
  • Knowledge of linguistic theory and application - students will demonstrate a detailed knowledge of terms, issues, principles, aspects and best practices related to the study of human language and linguistics.
  • Understanding of the nature and organisation of language - students will demonstrate detailed knowledge of observations and findings relating to various aspects of linguistic phenomena and organization.
  • Understanding the nature of commonalities and differences across languages - students will demonstrate detailed knowledge of phenomena and findings relating to universals and diversity exhibited by and across languages.
  • Knowledge of the relationship between language and society, culture, and/or embodied experience - students will demonstrate detailed knowledge of phenomena and findings relating to the complex interdependent relationship between language, society culture and/or embodied experience.
  • Knowledge of the relationship between language and mind/brain - students will demonstrate detailed knowledge of phenomena and findings relating to the complex interdependent relationship between language and mind/brain.
  • Knowledge of the nature of language origins, change and use - students will demonstrate detailed knowledge phenomena and findings relating to the nature of language origins, the way language changes, and factors involved in and affecting language use.


Resource implications for students


Reading list

Relevant reading will vary for each student due to the variety of topics being researched. Supervisors will assist students in identifying relevant literature.

Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses: